While You Were Waiting for the Plame Indictments

WASHINGTON, D.C.-With all eyes on Patrick Fitzgerald and the federal grand jury meeting about the Plame Affair a few blocks from the Capitol, the undone Bush White House is trying to jumpstart a new campaign to save the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers. To that end, Bush advisers are weighing the pros and cons of getting Miers to make a speech so more people will know where she's coming from before the hearings start-in 12 days.

But nobody may much care what the president does. It's that long despised position-the vice presidency-that has the world's attention. For it is here, under Dick Cheney, that all national security policy is made. It still seems unlikely that Cheney will get popped by Fitzgerald in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, but things aren't looking so rosy for his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. And if Libby goes down, he could take Cheney with him. And then there's Karl Rove, the Bush adviser who along with Libby has been told he's in serious legal jeopardy.

Subtract Cheney, Rove, and Libby from the administration and Bush will become a lackluster messenger boy.

Bush's conservative base may just be too far gone. Adding to the right-wingers snarling over Miers and wringing their hands over the possible Fitzgerald indictments in the Plame case are the true-conservative GOP politicians. They're desperately backpedaling to get away from Bush. Jerry W. Kilgore, Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, is a prominent example. Kilgore is skipping a Bush speech in his backyard on Friday, forgoing the chance to appear as Bush flogs the war on terrorism, again. When a president can't get the local leading lights to show up, you have to wonder.

A staunch Bush campaigner in last year's presidential elections, Kilgore cited previous commitments-hardly the sort of thing to endear himself with the Bushies. “I think it's highly likely that the Kilgore campaign folks just don't see Bush as an asset,” Mark J. Rozell, a public policy professor at George Mason University, told the Washington Post.

In Congress, senators rushed to support Bush as conservative ire over the Miers nomination mounted. ”Absurd” was the way Mike DeWine, the Ohio Republican and a member of the Judiciary committee, put it. He wants to get to the hearings. "It's awfully hard to be critical of something you know nothing about," Senator Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican said, seconding DeWine in the Washington Times on Wednesday.

That infuriated Manuel Miranda, one of the people organizing the movement to stop Miers. "Mike DeWine is going to lose in Ohio, and he should be more aware of grassroots sentiment," Mr. Miranda told the paper.

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